Why Waxman-Markey Is Not A Climate Bill
“The current debate has proven one thing very clearly. The U.S. climate debate is not about saving the climate. It is about regulation for its own sake in the name of “saving the climate.” This fact should give pause to everyone who really cares about human welfare. Cap-and-trade is at odds with the economic wealth needed to adapt to a future that cannot be centrally planned by politicos.”
Saturday’s New York Times headline (print edition) read: “House Backs Bill, 219-212, to Curb Global Warming.” But if the 219 House members who voted for the American Clean Energy and Security Act (HR 2454, aka the Waxman-Markey climate bill) thought they were casting a vote to “curb global warming,” they were sadly mistaken.
As I have shown, the climate impact of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions prescribed under Waxman-Markey is very small—best case it reduces projected global warming by less than one-tenth of a degree Fahrenheit by 2050 and only about one-third of a ºF by century’s end—a reduction that is scientifically meaningless. Many Representatives, in their pre-vote statements on the House floor, pointed this out, and perhaps many of the dissenting vote casters took this fact to heart.
However, while many of the opposition speakers mentioned the paucity of climate impacts from the emissions reduction measures, the great majority of the supporting speeches focused on energy security and domestic job creation (a contention vehemently challenged by the dissenters) and left the influence on the climate out of it! Undoubtedly, they knew full well that it would be inconsequential.
The only thing that the bill’s supporters could muster up about climate is that U.S. actions were necessary in order to convince the governments of China and India to curtail their emissions (the countries that hold the biggest keys to the rate of future greenhouse emissions growth and thus climate change).
But this is a peculiar argument for passing legislation that will impact the daily lives of each and every resident of the U.S. in ways which we probably will not like (higher energy costs) and which will produce no direct climate effect. Why offer it up as a reason for the governments of India and China (and other developing countries around the world) to impose the same (likely unpopular) restrictions on their citizenry? Opposition speakers rightly referred to this as the see-we’re-jumping-off-a-cliff-won’t-you-all-follow approach.
But if the developing countries do not follow us (after all they are developing countries and limiting energy consumption is not particularly good for development), the best we have to hope for is that while the U.S. limits its energy consumption as it tries to develop new non-greenhouse gas emitting technologies to prepare us for the future, the rest of the world, using a proven and for the near future (if not longer) plentiful fuel sources, doesn’t pass us by—economically and technologically (i.e. they develop new energy technologies in the course of their growth and development).
By passing the bill, the U.S. House of Representatives indicates its support for the establishment of an artificial scarcity of fossil fuels—legislating that fossil fuels are “running out” (i.e., the ever-tightening “cap”) and forcing us to try to use something else (all the while hoping that this doesn’t negatively impact our economy). The idea is to spark innovation in response to a dwindling supply. While it is certainly true that hard times lead to innovation, it is certainly not true that all innovation grows from hard times. The House has decided to impose hard energy times on us now (as if things aren’t hard enough already), rather than wait to see if they develop on their own (at some time in the not-too-near future).
Now, the debate moves to the Senate. Hopefully these 100 individuals will not be motivated by the “curbing global warming” canard—because, as I have shown, whatever they decide, America’s future energy choices will not alter the course of global climate. Any sacrificial song must have different verse.